Tag Archives: Environmental Management Disposal Facility

Roane County Environmental Review Board 

{by Mary Anne Koltowich}

Our Roane County Environmental Review Board (RCERB) was established in 1989 by Roane County Commission Resolution #1975. Under Resolution #03-11-12 purpose/responsibilities of this Board was clarified as “WHEREAS it is helpful to have a committee of qualified individuals to serve as an advisory group to study matters referred to it by the County Executive and the County Commissions, having the power only to make recommendations to the County Executive and the County Commissions after studying said matters.” The RCERB is authorized by the County Commission to be comprised of “five (5) to seven (7) general members and one (1) to two (2) student members, which shall be appointed by the County Executive and confirmed by the County Commission”. Currently, the RCERB has seven (7) appointed volunteer general members and no student members. In addition, a representative from the County Executive and a representative from the County Commission interface with the RCERB. Its appointed volunteer members represent a broad professional knowledge experience base of technical and scientific knowledge, education, skills, and hands-on experience in a cross-section of environmental fields. This broad professional knowledge experience base covers the Department of Energy (DOE) Oak Ridge Reservation activities, Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) operations, aquatic ecology, remediation projects, hazardous/radioactive waste management, and chemistry – just to name a few.

The RCERB strives to maintain an awareness of environmental activities that affect or can affect Roane County. Some of the most intensive topics that members have been actively studying for the benefit of the Commission in order to provide recommendations include:

  1. A new DOE new hazardous waste landfill named the Environmental Management Disposal Facility (EMDF) has been proposed that would house materials from the demolition and remediation of multiple contaminated Y-12 and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) structures/facilities. There is a formal dispute over this facility’s design and operational basis between DOE, the Tennessee Department of Conservation (TDEC), and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The dispute primarily concerns protective measures in order to prevent the release of contaminated waters from the landfill directly into the Bear Creek watershed (surface and groundwaters). There is a related on-going contaminated wastewater discharge problem with the current landfill, named the Environmental Management Waste Management Facility (EMWMF), which has almost reached its capacity. 
  2. A mercury discharge into East Fork Poplar Creek that occurred at the DOE Y-12 facility in June 2018 which resulted in a large fish kill and continued over an extended (multi-month) period. Recent documentation indicates that fines for violation of groundwater quality regulations may be forthcoming as a result of this mercury release. This release is also related to the new proposed EMDF landfill where mercury-contaminated waste would be placed. There is increased concern over the proper handling of the mercury contamination constituent to prevent the creation of a potential new contamination source for releases into the Bear Creek watershed.
  3. The TVA Kingston Fossil Plant Coal Ash Spill has been the recent subject of legal action by site workers. Now there are concerns about the possibility of fly ash being present in and around the Swan Pond Sports Complex. The RCERB has been working with TDEC staff to develop and implement a sampling plan to test soils at multiple locations to determine if the fields and walking trails are safe for our community members and county workers.
  4. Non-native invasive aquatic plants are proliferating in Watts Bar Reservoir, along with several of the TVA river reservoirs. The County Commission named an Aquatic Weeds Committee that requested that a stakeholders group be formed to study the problem, research other affected relative bodies of water, acquire lessons learned from others with the same problem, and provide a report containing the needed information, research efforts, & recommendations as to how to proceed to address the problem. As a result, the Watts Bar Ecology and Fishery Council (WBEFC) was formed as a 501.c(3) non-profit organization a couple of years ago. A couple of RCERB members are also members of the WBEFC. The subject report was formally submitted to the Roane County Commission during its March 2019 meeting. The WBEFC is awaiting notification from the Commission as to a meeting to discuss this report. The WBEFC is also and just as importantly focusing efforts on preventing the migration of Silver (jumping) Asian Carp into the Chickamauga and Watts Bar Reservoirs.
  5. The TVA Kingston Fossil Plan Supplemental Environmental Assessment (SEA) was extensively reviewed with comments provided in relation to the expansion of the now used landfill to dispose of and store fly ash, bottom ash, and gypsum generated by the burning of coal.
  6. TDEC performed surface water sampling of creeks around Tiger Haven to determine the presence (or lack thereof) of e. coli bacteria that could affect the health of nearby citizens. Sampling has concluded, and a report from TDEC is in progress.
  7. The American Zinc Corporation (AMZ) has had a draft Title V permit in review with TDEC for the last few years. There has been a Public Meeting in the past with another one planned in April. The RCERB reviewed the recent permit update and provided recommendations to the County Commission. The Commission has accepted and forwarded the identified permit concerns to TDEC.
  8. TVA’s draft Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) and Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) of almost 700 pages was reviewed with comments provided back to TVA and copied to the Commission. The IRP and EIS explore various strategies and scenarios about how TVA plans to meet the power demands of the future and to remain stewards of the environment.
  9. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has released plans related to permitting TVA to build and operate Small Modular Reactors (SMR) at the Clinch River site (previously the old “nuclear breeder site”). Plans are to build one or more 150-Mw nuclear reactor power plants to generate electricity. The NRC has approved an early site permit that allows investigation and preliminary design.

Each member of the RCERB expends many hundreds of hours on studying topics, performing online research, reading subject-related procedures/permits/regulations, attending public meetings to gather firsthand information, documenting feedback for public comment requests, and more each year. These services come at no cost to the taxpayers of the county and have saved taxpayers millions of dollars during the RCERB’s years of existence as a result of not having to hire outside consultants or establish a full-time staff to perform this work effort. In fact, RCERB input is now actively being sought by other outside area environmental groups and by state regulatory agencies. In the interest of public safety and environmental protection, the RCERB provides a very valuable function to Roane county government and its citizens. RCERB meetings are held monthly, open to the public, and public comments are welcomed.